Monday, 30 April 2012

I’m Backing Boris


If Ken pricks us do we not bleed?

If Boris tickles us do we not laugh?

If we have a choice shall we not vote?

Friday, 27 April 2012

YHS: Chareidi v Orthodox

YH teacher hamodiaYH teacher jc

Spot the difference

Above are recruitment ads for Science and English teachers for the YH Secondary girls' school. Nothing strange in that other than perhaps they may have run out of a ready supply of ex-sem girls and so must cast their net further afield. That however should be a cause for celebration as it indicates that the latest batch of sem graduates have spent their valuable formative years studying how to de-bug lettuce and sew hems and not filling their heads with such narishkeiten as the writings of that notorious anti-semite and his musings on Brutus and Casius. We have hespeidim of gedoilim beginning moirai vraboisai not speeches to friends and countrymen about thrice refusing crowns. That is not the Torah way.

Besides, do you know that Science KS3 has life processes as a subject which in turn includes repr-duction, rachmono litzlon? Is that what we needed a state aided school for to teach our heilige kinderlech how to have more kinderlech kenienehore, chas vcholilo?

Getting back to the advert which is what brought me here in the first place, you may have noticed on first blush that one has an email in the heading while the other one doesn't. Again nothing to raise an eyebrow since different audiences have different tastes and while one type of reader may shun a school that has no email medium for communication another may be attracted for that very reason. Anyway both have an email further in the text and so it's simply a case of not shouting it out too loud.

Ok, Tickle, your obsession with YHS seems to be getting the better of you and if this is all you have to say why not just shut up?

But, let me grab your wrist, hang on a second. Take a look at the beginning of the ad and you will notice that while the one on the right begins with YHS being an "Orthodox Jewish Voluntary Aided School based in Stamford Hill" that bit has been excised from the ad on the left. One searches for an explanation and wonders if it the Orthodox in the sentence the other paper objected to or is it the Stamford Hill bit?

The Torah as always comes to the rescue and it is only when we apply the 13th rule of Rabbi Yishmael's rules of extrapolation that we can make some sense. This is the rule that where two passages contradict each other 'until along comes the third passage and reconciles between them.'

And the third way in this case being our old friend, admissions.


As the admissions brochure above shows the O word dares not speak its name and it's the C word that predominates: Charedi. You know who they are, I assume. That group that is on the cusp of becoming the majority of Anglo Jewry and according to the 'principal' we should be planning ahead. Presumably by rewriting JFS admissions criteria and lining up some family members for the JLC and BoD. But oy how I digress.

Didn’t I mention reconciliation? So hold on tight because we are now going on a Talmudical roller coaster and here comes a long extrapolation, exegesis, exposition and reconciliation all rolled into one.

You see, the ad on the right comes from the JC whose readers are as likely to send their kids to YHS as the Chief Rabbi on the YHS podium is likely to appear in the Hamodia, and even if those readers were to apply the very taking of that paper is likely to win their application an instant place in the waste-paper basket and memeile we can spill the beans to them that we are O in order to attract those teachers who might turn their nose up upon sight of the C word and we still won't risk chas vcholilo a queue forming at those daunting iron gates (reserved for visitors only). Ma she'ein kein with the Hamodia where the advert on the left appeared if we were to tell their readers that we are Orthodox only rachmono litzlon and based in Stamford Hill noch it could affect business for the school hall whose hirers and leaseholders may take objection to the shande of an O presence in the holy square mile. We also can't mention the C word because there is a minhag not to advertise the school lest parents whose children are not lucky enough to be enrolled in the eponymous primary school clamour to get over those railings and we can't have a rabble at our gates as if we're an apple store launching a new ip-d, chas vsholem. Let them therefore think we're in the Outer Hebrides and don't even tell them we're Jewish and then maybe they'll stop fardreiing us a kop with applications and appeals so that we have more time to concentrate on applying the 4-inch-below-knee rule. So to sum up, and here we conclude, when writing to bring them in use the O word, when writing to keep them out use that deliciously indefinable C word which works a dream for exclusions and when straddling both worlds leave it out alltogether and a plague on both their shuls.

Phew, are you still here? Well, do hurry up, applications close today!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Winds of Change

Stamford Hill is changing. That may be stating the obvious though it would sound like news to many of those who descend upon us from time to time to describe us like some Amazonian tribe that talks in whistles and performs a ritual dance each time an aeroplane crosses overhead. They cannot be entirely at fault when some people who purport to speak for us like to present us as quaint delicate artefacts that are irreparably harmed when exposed to sunlight and require an army of representatives, carers, talkers to take care of our every unique need if not whim.

Yet despite their best efforts we are not what we used to be. We are more confident, more extravagant, less sarcastic and cynical, not so suspicious and secretive, less prudish and conservative, less hierarchical and respectful of authority but also brash and flash. Not all the change is for the better and there is much that I like about the old like paying for one’s way and not expecting life to be handed on a plate. I personally will never get used to the hysterical, sensational, shallow sentimentality that has been imported largely from Israel and to a lesser extent from the US.

However, I don't get to choose these things but nor can I ignore them. It would be impossible to try and lay a finger on the pulse of the up and coming and even less would I like to think what it means for our future because if one thing is certain whatever the future holds it ain't gonna be rosy. This is also a holiday week when people are extremely busy arranging outings and figuring out how to make a sandwich without the centre ingredients coming into contact with the outer layers. It is a feat that Hillel managed nicely some 2000 years ago but which appears to have been lost over time.

So rather than bore you with analysis and prognosis I present a list of old vs. new. This is not a value judgement and the old is far from dead while the new has yet to galvanise but it still tell us something. Like all lists it is likely to be invidious and undoubtedly reflects my bias but it should be fun nonetheless.





Breuer & Spitzer


Berger & Twersky





Taam Hayam

Satmar, Oldhill

Satmar Fleisch Gescheft

Woodberry Down




Satmar 86

Satmar 26

Belz 99

Belz 98





Prominent families








Dayan Dunner

Reb Sholem Freidman

Rav Padwa

Herschel Schneck

Shmuel Ludmir
Reb Yossel Padwa

Boruch Leib Rabinowitz

Meilech Schwartz



Jewish Tribune


Der Yid

Der Blat

Kol Ho'oilom Kilo





Tzorchei Shabbos v’Yomtov

Tomchei Shabbos

Chevra Kadisha

Hatzole, Shomrim, Chaveirim...

Beis Broche Bikur Choilim

Reb Meir Bal Hanes

Japanese drug mules





Anything with Hebrew letters?



West of Dunsmure Rd

North of Ravensdale Road



Joe Lobenstein

Avrumi Pinter

Sholem Ber Stern

Oshi Schapiro

Ita Simons

Simcha Steinberger

To watch


No one

Refoel Grosskopf

Aron Klein

Benzion Papier









Beis Chinuch



Beis Yaakov Girls

Side by Side

Family size


Double digits




Dudy Braun

The Shaigetz (z"l)



Fanatically against

Madly for



Generally self sufficient

Heavily dependent



Frugal and prudish

Outings to the zoo

Tsholent fress-up receptions

Quick Fit


Cricket, if at all



What to say


‘Shreklich the price of eggs’

‘What do you think of Gaby (or The Apprentice, Britain's Got Talent etc.)?’

What not to say

‘The beat at last night’s chasuno was gevaldik’ ‘Has your child been accepted?’

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Diary of a Scandal

The conventional view is that Pinter made it big time and on the whole it is difficult to argue with that. The fact of the matter is that Livingstone's article in last week's JC mentions just one person by name whom Ken tells us he likes and respects in equal measure. Tell me who your friends are... comes to mind which is perhaps why it was not quite the local topic of conversation last Shabbos. There is however no principle that the represented must know what is being said and done in their name and so let's get back on topic.

Rather than blow Pinter's trumpet which he is more than capable of doing on his own perhaps we should examine his role in all of this and once again ask what's in it for him. Let us take a closer look at the events of the last weeks and see how our liked and respected hero carried out his public duties as representative of the downtrodden of Stamford Hill.

12 February 2012: Ken Livingstone attends Side-by-Side dinner at the behest of Pinter. Ken's presence was not pre-announced on the invitations and begging letters for the brochure. Had it been it may have made a significant difference to the amount raised.

15 March 2012: The JC reports on a dinner attended by Ken and Jewish Labour supporters. 'Sources' briefed the paper and though I don't know who those sources are of the 25 people reportedly present only Pinter is at this stage mentioned by name. Although we were told that the discussions were off the record the report did tell us what Pinter asked for and what he didn't get. Pinter also gave a statement to the paper that he was ‘disappointed’ that Ken was given an opportunity to make amends but didn't take it. Hamodia, a large part of whose readership Pinter purportedly represents and where he is the resident spinner, is silent on the issue.

23 March 2012: The JC reports on Ken's 'rich Jews' comment that since the Jewish community was rich they were unlikely to vote for him. The 'sources' who briefed the JC the week earlier had seen fit to provide quite a bit of detail of what went between Pinter and Ken but not this. The comments were made towards the end and it's possible that Pinter was at that stage bentshing from a siddur (did they serve beer and sandwiches?). The same issue of the JC also reported on a letter to Ed Miliband by some of the attendees complaining of Ken's comments. Pinter did not sign the letter. Notably, the letter is signed by Rabbi Danny Rich who is the chief executive of Liberal Judaism in the UK and who also attended. It appears 'sharing a platform' is not quite the cardinal sin we've always been told it is.

Dan Rickman, another attendee, writes an article that Ken 'is part of the problem not part of the solution.' Jonathan Freedland, who was also at the dinner, wrote in the Guardian that he can't bring himself to back Ken. Nothing from Pinter, mind you, and nothing in Hamodia either.

29 March 2012: We finally get Ken's recantation mentioning three times the man who seems to have been least offended but who perhaps has most to offer. The JC also reports that Ken said at the start of the dinner that he is happy for it to be on the record and so whoever was briefing the paper on week 1 was either misinformed or misleading. Hamodia has finally woken up with a headline on page 5 about Ken having been 'misinterpreted' followed by a report on his 'alleged' comments. Can't they ask what was actually said?

Now that's out of the way let's get back to the Ken and Pinter lie-in. Ken is a seasoned politician and while he may have felt that he went too far this time and perhaps genuinely regretted some of his more juicy expressions he also chose his words carefully in his apology. Both for what he apologised for and to whom he apologised.

To Ken and Pinter we Stamford Hillers are fodder as the poor and not particularly zionist Jews. Ken may not give much of a monkey for them richies up north west but we paupers are different. If there are votes to be garnered here and Pinter is our saviour and protector then appeasing him must have been high on his agenda. Ken also has no need to offend our types in order to appeal to some of his other constituencies. Ken even tells us that Labour is the preferred party in North London, note the lack of 'West', though nobody's bothered telling him that it really depends whether it happens to be a Chareidi candidate.

Compare however the following: To the Jews it is "If I am elected my policy will not be to promote one faith or community over another… but to promote interfaith and inter-community dialogue." Whereas at the Finsbury Park mosque it was a pledge to make London a beacon for the Prophet's message and "make your life a bit easier financially.” Not so much a promotion of one faith as an abandonment of all others. As Philip Collins wrote in The Times, 'I don't want a mayor who pits 1m Muslims against 200,000 Jews.'

Enough of Ken though and let's now turn to Pinter. The dinner was by all accounts a meeting of Labour party supporters and Pinter did start his political life in Hackney Council when the hard left were in control and Ken was running London in his first incarnation at the GLC.

Like the best socialists he stands for the poor and downtrodden by ensuring they remain that way and don't dare rise above their station. He is the liberal who has elevated school exclusions into an art form and admissions into a misnomer. He is the progressive at whose school girls are handed fliers requesting them to undertake to stand aside and let men pass. From him you get not equal opportunities but equal opportunism where one family just happens to be more equal than others. The socialists may believe in nationalisation but he is one who has privatised in all but name a publicly funded school.

He is the school principal who prefers to leave 14% of the school budget unspent. The advocate of the poor who won't feed their offspring school dinners. The protector of the impoverished who makes the mere 4% of free school meal claimants queue demeaningly at the local bakery to exchange their vouchers. The anti-poverty campaigner who charges the unwashed £250 to retrieve helium balloons from the ceiling. He is so slippery he cannot even decide what his name ought to be switching from Abraham to Avrohom according to its ethnic political value. We have heard how Ken funnels his earnings and it's time we get some information on the school hall income and how much that generates.

Ken and Pinter are birds of a feather shockling together. Ken needs the votes Pinter can supposedly provide and Pinter needs the cover of people like Ken to continue the hegemony of himself, the missus, kids, brother, nephews, nieces and shortly no doubt grandsons and daughters too. They are next of kin and deserve no less. True to Labour's ideals he will tell us plebs what is best for us and we'll bloody well accept it on pain of having our sons and daughters walk the streets. Ken is loyal to his comrades and if it means looking aside over some tiny local school it’s only a small price to pay.

But as another Abraham said, You can't fool all the people all the time.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Rabbi Yehoshua (Szyjer) Szpetman z”l

Rabbi Szpetman

Last Friday (7 Nisan) was the Hebrew yortzeit of Rabbi Yehosua Szpetman about whom I wrote in this post.

Born in Lublin, Poland in 1887/8 he was the rabbi for 35 years at the Nelson Street Synagogue which was one of the larger shuls in the East End. (According to the link above there were two Nelson Street Synagogues.) A reader has helpfully pointed me to A World Apart by Harry Rabinowicz for biographical details.

According to Rabinowicz the rabbi "was not afraid to criticise spiritual or lay leaders. He hated untruths, dishonesty and hypocrisy. He frowned on displays of pretentiousness and was unique in tolerance and sympathy. He spoke more like a prophet than a preacher. He enlivened any gathering with his wit, eccentricity and his healthy irreverence. He befriended the Chasidic rebbes in London and graced most of their functions. He was popularly called the 'Red Rabbi', the Jewish counterpart of his contemporary the Dean of Canterbury, Dr Hewlett Johnson."

It’s a shame they don’t make rabbis like that any more and I hereby declare him patron saint of this blog.

Nelson St Synagogue - CopyHis views on the Chief Rabbinate are as relevant today as there were in 1947 when he wrote in a letter to the JC "…I suggest now that Anglo-Jewry is about to elect its spiritual head, would it not be appropriate earnestly to consider dispensing with the so-called title 'Chief Rabbi…"

Rabbi Szpetman was naturalised as a British citizen in May 1952 and it is interesting to read the list of new citizens for that month and the large proportion of Jewish names.

Rabbi Szpetman's grave - Copy

Rabbi Szpetman died on 20 March 1964 (7 Nisan 5724) and is buried beside his wife at the Federation Cemetery on Montague Road in Edmonton (down the road from the Prince and Princess hall). That plot contains quite a few East End rabbis from that era who are unfortunately largely forgotten.

He wrote several books in Yiddish and I’ve listed a few below. The first three can be downloaded and one is topical for Pesach. The first is a collection of speeches where you get more than a flavour of his fiery oratory and his warm humanity. A fuller bibliography is available here.

חבלי הנשמה ומוסר היהדות; לכבוד ראש השנה יום כפור שמחת תורה; פסח, ל”ג בעומר, שבועות; בגילופין, פארגאנגענע וועלטן